When a Dutchman, Harmen Meyndertsz van den Bogaert, traveled from Albany (then Fort Orange) to the main village of the Oneidas in the dead of winter 1634, he was on a mission to thwart the French, who had found their way to Oneida Lake.
In the struggle for influence in Iroquoia, there was no time to lose. The Dutch had a firm hold on the Hudson Valley at this point and a profitable relationship with the Mohawk, but New Netherland’s trade was threatened by New France, which controlled the St. Lawrence River from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic.
The Dutch were in Fort Orange for fur. Indians from the Hudson valley and Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, people from the Mohawk valley and further west supplied pelts of beaver and other animals in exchange for European tools, wampum, and other commodities. The French had been doing the same along the St. Lawrence since the early days of New France, extending back (with some interruptions) to the voyages of Jacques Cartier in the first half of the sixteenth century. Indigenous People in Canada brought pelts to French trading posts along the St. Lawrence which were taken back to France in a highly lucrative trade.
Early contact between the French and the Haudenosaunee who lived across what is now Upstate New York was hostile. Haudenosaunee raids disrupted French trade in the early seventeenth century. Samuel de Champlain, the governor of New France, happily joined Native allies in war raids against the Haudenosaunee. In 1615, he went with a group of Indian People from what is now Canada to attack an Oneida or Onondaga village. On the way, he crossed the Oneida River and took notes on Oneida Lake that he published in his Voyages de la Nouvelle France (1632). Champlain was injured in the failed attack and retreated, but not before using arquebus guns against the Haudenosaunee and attempting to burn their village.
Franco-Haudenosaunee animosity played into the hands of the Dutch. But in 1634, a truce was agreed between the Haudenosaunee and the French-Allied Indians. In the summer of that year, Frenchmen arrived on Oneida Lake to trade, presumably having come from Lake Ontario and via the Oswego and Oneida Rivers.
The area was still only vaguely known to Europeans. Champlain’s map of New France of 1632 shows the extent of their geographic understanding at the time. Lake Ontario (called Lac St. Louis) is depicted with several rivers flowing into it. The one alongside which the number 93 sits may represent the Salmon River but is more likely (given the islands depicted near it) the Black River.
In the map’s key, number 93 reads: “Chestnut forest where there are abundant chestnuts on the shore of Lake St. Louis, with meadows, vines, and nut-trees.” The number 89 reads: “Village fortified by four palisades, where Sieur de Champlain went in the war against the Antouhonorons, where several savages were taken prisoners.” Champlain identifies Antouhonorons with “Yroquois” or “Hiroquois” (Iroquois), who “make war on all other nations” around them. The lake shown above the number 89 may represent Oneida Lake, or Onondaga Lake.
A French trading post on Oneida Lake would have been disastrous for New Netherland as it could have deprived the colony of all pelts taken from points west of Mohawk territory. Van Den Bogaert noted that trade at Fort Orange was going badly in 1634 and traveled by foot to the Oneida village, over a hundred miles away through snow and freezing temperatures, to try to negotiate with the Oneidas.
When he reached the village, he could see Oneida Lake in the distance and was told by the locals that this is where six Frenchmen had come the previous August to trade. In the Oneida village, Van Den Bogaert found evidence of the visit – French-made shirts, coats, razors, and axes. The Onieda said that the French were offering more than the Dutch for their pelts and called Van Den Bogaert and his companions “scoundrels.” Van Den Bogaert managed to negotiate a new deal with them, which he promised to convey to his superiors in New Amsterdam.
The fascinating story of Van den Bogaert’s winter trek to Oneida is recorded in his diary, which is available with commentary in A Journey into Mohawk and Oneida Country, 1634-5 (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2013). But what of the French side of the story?
If the French arrival on Oneida Lake was part of an orchestrated strategy to take advantage of the truce and to create Haudenosaunee trade partnerships, there is no indication of it in the extremely detailed records of New France known as the Jesuit Relations. The men who came to Oneida Lake may have been truchements, or interpreters, groups of whom Champlain had sent out to establish contacts with Native peoples in the Great Lakes region between 1611 and 1635. It is possible that the Frenchmen who came to Oneida Lake did so without any official instruction or mission from the administration of New France. As David Hackett Fisher explains in his biography of Champlain, the truchements and the coureurs de bois who followed them, often acted independently, sometimes in conflict with official orders.
In 1635, Champlain died. The truce between the Haudenosaunee and the French-allied Indians of Canada broke down and the so-called “Beaver Wars” carried on through most of the remainder of the seventeenth century. The idea of a permanent French trading post on Oneida Lake resurfaced several times, but never materialized.
It is interesting to speculate, however, on what might have happened if the Dutch hadn’t reached out to the Oneidas in 1634. French influence among the Haudenosaunee could have gained the upper hand and a firm partnership with the French – rather than the one with the Dutch, and later, the English – could have been the result. If it had, much of what became New York might have been New France instead.
Photos, from above: detail from Samuel de Champlain, “Carte de la Nouvelle France, 1632” from Les Voyages de la Nouvelle France (Paris: L. Sevestre, 1632); and excerpt from the original key to the 1632 map, also from Champlain’s Voyages.
N.Francois Couture says
Guillaume Couture did acquire much of what would have been New York State for New France in 1647 by becoming a citizen and a Peace Tree Chief of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, as well as being the only white man to have sit the Council. Guillaume, enshrined as “William” at the shrine at Auriesville (once Ossernenon), lived for over three years at Tinnotoguen, village of the Okwaho in Montgomery County (Sprakers Bend/Town of Root), and was the first white man to settle the south side of the Saint Laurence River.
Guillaume Couture: Premier Colon de la Pointe-Levy by Joseph Edmond Roy
References for Guillaume Couture
Dictionary of Canadian Biography
COUTURE, GUILLAUME, carpenter, a donné of the Society of Jesus, discoverer, interpreter, diplomat, judge of the seneschal’s court, first settler at Lévis.
==========CAPTIVITY AMONG MAQUAAS============
June 12, 1642 – 23 Souls, 5 French left from the Huronia in 4 canoes. 40 + portages ahead.
June 13, 1642 – Reached Three Rivers
August 2, 1642 – 40 Souls, 4 French, rest Hurons, left Quebec for Huronia.
August 3, 1642 – Maaquas attacked canoes with muskets.
Captured: Father Simon Jogues*, Rene Goupil*, Guillaume Couture, Eustace Ahatsistari, Paul Onnonhoaraton, and Stephen (Huron converts).
*Cannonized Roman Catholic Saint – North American Martyrs.
=====JESUIT RELATIONS Guillaume Couture==================
Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents
REUBEN GOLD THWAITES
Achirra, Indian appellation of Nicolet and Couture, 28, 183
Iroquois council at, 62, 67, 165, 64, 97, 143; Couture at, 21
BUTEUX, Jacques, Jesuit, 6, 4
makes feast for Couture, 183
Cote, prefix applied to various places fronting on water: de Beauport, Jesuit superior at, 42, 259 (see Beauport).
Couture’s landgrant at, 21, 318
Couture (Cousture), Guillaume, interpreter and Jesuit donne, 44, 119; arrives in Canada (ca. 1641), 21, 318; difficulties regarding
donation, 301 ; accompanies Jogues to Iroquois country (1642), 318; captivity among Iroquois, 9. 313, 21, 318, 22, 269, 319, 24, 281-285,
295, 25, 19-21, 51, 26, 49, 28, 147, 31, 25, 32, 175, 39, 73, 181-199, 266; refuses to forsake Jogues, 24, 305; urges Jogues to escape, 25, 51; tortured, 21, 318, 31, 27, 47, 39, 181-183, 189-197; given to Iroquois family, 199; restored to liberty (1644), 9, 314, 21, 318, 27, 255-257; negotiations and journeys with Iroquois envoys, 21, 318, 27, 79, 247, 281, 28, 115, 169-171, 279-285, 291, 315; at Sillery, 183; Indian name changed, 183; at Quebec, 21, 318, 43, 43, 50, 199; leaves Jesuit service (1646), 21, 318; Jesuits approve of mar
riage (1646), 318, 28, 183; at French-Iroquois council, 295; receives landgrant (1648), 21, 318; captain of militia, 318; judge of seign
iory, 318; marriage (1649), 318; Iroquois prisoners lodged with, 43, 69; with Papinachois (1665), 49, 161 ; political journey to New
Holland (1666), 21, 318, 50, 193; detachment of soldiers follow, 193; death (1702), 21, 318; character, 25, 21; sketch, 21, 318
Ihandich, Indian appellation of Couture, 28, 183. See also Couture.
League or confederacy :
Language: dialects of Huron-Iroquois
Couture speaks, 28, 295
Envoys and conferences: Iroquois with French
Couture confers with, 21, 318;
Events in history : trading station at,
Couture at, 318;
A HISTORY OF THE NEW YORK IROQUOIS
NOW COMMONLY CALLED THE SIX NATIONS
BY WILLIAM M. BEAUCHAMP
Saint Among Savages: The Life of Saint Isaac Jogues, 1935
By Francis X. Talbot, SOJ
New York Times Articles
February 09, 1936
A Jesuit Missionary Among The Savages of America;
Francis Talbot’s Biography of Isaac Jogues, Who Has Been Canonized by Pope Plus XI SAINT AMONG SAVAGES.
By Francis Talbot. 466 pp.
New York: Harper & Brothers. $3.50.
Words of the Huron – John Steckley, 2007 Page 244
“A non-Jesuit example would be Guillaume Couture, a lay helper of the Jesuit missionaries at Sainte-Marie-Among-the-Hurons. He was called Ihandich (JR28:183; also see JR14:49), literally ‘he sews’ (Potier 1920:292), which was a Huron translation of his sirname.
From Torture to Triumph: The Lost Legend of a Man Who Opened America: Guillaume Couture
Michael Fenn, 2015
Guillaume Couture: Premier Colon de la Pointe-Levy
by Joseph Edmond Roy
The History of Old Saratoga, 1901
John Henry Brandow
Book I; Military History; Chapter 1
Discovery of This Valley
Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons, 1953
Wilfrid and Elsie Jury
50, 85, 88, 106
Historire de la Seigneurie de Lauzon – Volume 2 – Page 163
White Lies about the Inuit – Page 29
Guillaume Couture was called Ihandich “he sews” as a loan translation of his last name”
Bulletin of the New York State Museum – Issue 78 – Page 184, 1905
Documents of the Senate of the State of New York
New York (State). Legislature. Senate · 1905
Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York
New York (State). Legislature. Assembly · 1905
Report – Volume 57, Issue 2 – Page 184
New York State Museum, ?New York State Museum and Science Service · 1905
The Quarterly Journal of the New York State Historical
Guidebook – Volume 37, Part 1965 – Page A-9
New York State Geological Association. Meeting
New York State Museum and Science Service
Educational Leaflet – Issues 12-19, 1962
The History of the City of Albany, New York
From the Discovery of the Great River in 1524,
by Verrazzano, to the Present Time
By Arthur James Weise · 1884, Page 67
The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Centurybooks
Francis Parkman · 1897
Library and Archives Canada
Guillaume Couture Conge to go North
Order of Mr d’Avaugour to fr Couture to go North
Pierre Davaugour lieutenant general for the king in New France certifies having given leave to ( ) Couture ( ) to accompany the savages escorted North until and for as long a time that he will judge apropos for service to the King and the good of the country, and can go or send himself with them if he finds there safety and some advantage for the Republic.
Made at Quebec the Tenth May One Thousand Six Hundred Sixty Three
Signed Dubois Davaugour ( )
Verified from the original found in the papers of the clerk of the Sovereign Council of New France by me the undersigned designated Secretary of ( ) and head clerk of the Council Signed
Verified at Quebec the 12th November 1712 Vaudreuil
Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine, Auriesville, New York
The Capture of Jogues, Couture, and Goupil
Saint Marie Among the Hurons, Midland, Ontario
L’Association des familles Couture d’Amérique
The Iroquois murdered René Goupil:
2 August to 29 September 1642 – The Iroquois, armed by the Dutch with arquesbuses, attacked a convoy of 12
canoes bearing about 40 people who were returning to Huronia from Trois-Rivières. They captured Isaac Jogues,
S.J., donné René Goupil, Guillaume Couture, and their Huron companions, brought them to the Mohawk
territory and tortured the captives. On 29 September 1642, René Goupil was killed in Ossernenon (present-day
Auriesville, N.Y.), with a hatchet by an Iroquois who was angered after Goupil made the sign of the cross over a
child. He was the first Jesuit martyr from New France and was canonized with his fellow martyrs on 29 June
Montmagny negotiated a peace treaty with the Mohawk:
5 July through 23 September 1645 – Montmagny negotiated a peace treaty among the Mohawk, the French
Canadians, and their Native-American Allies (Huron, Algonquin, Montagnais, and Attikamek) in TroisRivières. The Mohawk departed and returned to Trois-Rivières on 17 September with Guillaume Couture for the
formal ratification of the treaty with the 400 Allied Native Americans. The last meeting was held on 20 September.
The Mohawk departed for Iroquoia on 23 September with two French Canadians, two Algonquin, and two
Huron, having left three Mohawk with the French as hostages to guarantee the peace.17
The ice on the St. Lawrence prevented Montmagny from ratifying the peace:
22 February 1646 – Guillaume Couture returned to Trois-Rivières with seven Mohawk envoys and his Huron
companions to ratify the treaty and extend it to their Allies. The ice on the St. Lawrence prevented Montmagny
from meeting with the ambassadors so the Mohawk went off to hunt.
Gabriel Druillettes, S.J., Claude Dablon, S.J., Guillaume Couture, Denis Guyon, and François Pelletier
attempted to travel to the Great Lakes via the Northern Sea (Hudson Bay):
11 May 1661 to 27 July 1661 – During the winter of 1660-1661, a Nipissing chief visited Québec and told the
Jesuits about the Native American Tribes that lived around the Northern Sea (Hudson Bay) and of the general fair
that they held each summer. The chief invited the Native Americans from Tadoussac and Québec to the fair.
Based on this information, Gabriel Druillettes, S.J., decided to resume his voyage to the Great Lakes; however, he decided to go via Tadoussac, the Saguenay River, and the Northern Sea (Hudson Bay). Claude Dablon, S.J.,
Guillaume Couture, Denis Guyon, and François Pelletier accompanied Druillettes on the voyage. One of the objectives of this trip was to determine if the Northern Sea (Hudson Bay) linked to the Western Sea (Pacific Ocean)
and the Southern Sea (Gulf of Mexico). Druillettes planned to winter at a mission to the Cree
(Kiristinons/Kilistinons), which Laval named St. François Xavier prior to their departure. Dablon intended to
return to Québec to inform the Jesuits about their new discoveries, so that they could prepare for the mission. The
group left for their voyage on 11 May, but were delayed in Tadoussac for three weeks due to a contagious disease.
They left Tadoussac on 1 (or 2) June, accompanied by 40 canoes of Native Americans. The journey from
Tadoussac to Nikabau/Nekauba (southeast of Chibougamu and Lac Mistassini, which are southeast of Hudson Bay’s
southern shore) took 30 days and required 64 portages. Following Laval’s instructions, Druillettes and Dablon
named the mission St. François Xavier. During the voyage, they learned that the Iroquois had defeated the
“Squirrel” nation and had dispersed all the surrounding Tribes that the missionaries intended to meet. The
Montagnais guides were apprehensive of an attack by the Iroquois and decided to turn back at the watershed near
the lake. Dablon, Druillettes, Couture, Guyon, and Pelletier returned from their voyage on 27 July 1661.80
Guillaume Couture led a second expedition that attempted to reach Hudson Bay:
May 1663 – Guillaume Couture agreed to lead a second expedition to the Northern Sea (Hudson Bay). He was
accompanied by Pierre Duquet, Jean Langlois, who was a shipwright, and 44 canoes of Native Americans. They
left Québec in mid May and headed north via the Saguenay River. The group reached Lake Mistassini on 26th of
June where they were delayed by a storm that left a foot of snow. When they reached the Rupert River, the Native
Americans refused to go any farther.101
Tracy sent Guillaume Couture as an ambassador to New York Governor Nichols:
22 July 1666 – Tracy released one of the Oneida hostages and ordered him to escort Guillaume Couture to meet
with Governor Richard Nichols of New York. Tracy’s letter to Nichols explained that he had sent Couture to
New York to obtain custody of the Native Americans who attacked Fort Sainte Anne and bring them to Québec.
Nichols avoided meeting with him, Couture, however, obtained custody of the leader of the raid, a member of the
Neutral Nation who had been absorbed into the Mohawk Tribe. Couture also persuaded the Mohawk Chief
known as the Flemish Bastard, one of the pro-French members of the Tribe, to accompany him back to Québec.82